A the annual conference of the European Union’s outermost regions, in Gran Canaria, Jean-Claude Juncker has announced that nine outermost territories can now use state aid to support the renewal of the small-scale fishing fleet, while meeting conditions requiring sustainable activity.
The European Commission has adopted a communication amending guidelines for the examination of state aid to the fishery and aquaculture sector. Subject to strict sustainability requirements, the revision enables state aid for purchasing fishing vessels in the outermost regions of the EU.
The aim is facilitate fleet renewal in order to increase the safety of fishermen, ensure food supplies, and allow the fishery sector to play an important role in the overall development of the regions.
The new measures will allow Member States to offer public support for buying of new fishing vessels to individual fishermen and companies based in one of the nine outermost regions of the EU.
This state aid can be used to replace outdated and unsafe vessels. If the capacity limits of a region have not yet been reached, the funding can be used to buy new vessels of different types and lengths that are more suitable for current fishing opportunities. Before paying aid to individual beneficiaries, the Commission has to assess the planned aid schemes and authorise them. The guidelines set out the specific conditions under which the Commission will do so.
The guidelines place particular emphasis on avoiding any negative impact on the sustainability of fish stocks. State aid can only be granted if there is a proper balance between fish resources and the fishing capacity of the fleet sector acquiring a new vessel. Furthermore, the introduction of a new vessel must be done with full respect to the capacity ceilings set out in EU law.
Aid is particularly needed in the case of small and medium-range vessels. The maximum intensity of public aid therefore varies depending on vessel length.
The guidelines also ensure that the benefits of public support remain within the outermost region concerned. Aid can therefore only be granted to beneficiaries registered in the region at the date of granting the aid. Furthermore, the vessel must remain registered in the outermost region concerned for at least fifteen years and must, during that time, land all of its catches in an outermost region.